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How the Visma way of working benefits you as a customer

How do we in Visma ensure that we deliver cloud software that is secure, reliable, performant, and responsive to the needs that you as a customer have? In this article, we’ll show how our way of working, and the technology we use, is aligned with those goals.

How the Visma way of working benefits you as a customer
How the Visma way of working benefits you as a customer

An increasing number of Visma products are developed and operated according to the Visma Cloud Delivery Model (VCDM). VCDM is a continuously improving framework Visma uses to ensure that we deliver cloud software that is secure, reliable, performant, and responsive to customer needs.

Everything from how we are organised, to how we work and the technology we use, is aligned with these goals in mind.

We believe this way of working gives us and our customers a competitive advantage. In this article, we will go into a bit more detail about how we work and what it means for you as a customer.

How VCDM takes into account the organisation, work methods, and customer needs

Organisation

VCDM software is designed, developed, delivered and operated by cross-functional teams that take full ownership, not only of the code and infrastructure involved, but more importantly, the quality of the service they deliver, including the entire user experience.

VCDM teams are continuously monitoring the software they develop and use this information to improve the software further.

Illustration image of the VCDM software framework
No silos: By using many different types of competence throughout the entire process, we are able to make better decisions more effectively.

Automation and agility

Testing and delivering new versions of the software is highly automated, which means that we can react to feedback, market needs and other events very quickly.

This capability allows us to more quickly find the best solutions, and to fix any potential problems before they impact a user. Most VCDM teams will make software improvements available to their users many times a week, or even many times a day.

So far, we have released improvements to VCDM software 9,834 times in 2020.

Illustration image: Number of software releases per month.
Number of software releases per month.

Reliability

The software we make, the infrastructure we use, and the internal processes we follow are all designed to deliver at least 99.8% availability. This means that for any 30 day period, the software should not be unavailable for you as a user for more than 86 minutes.

So far, our average availability for VCDM software in 2020 is 99.97%, or 13 minutes of unavailability per month. It’s important to note that we count all unavailability, including vendor failures and maintenance windows.

If something does go wrong with the service we deliver to customers, we like to be prepared. That’s why we perform robustness testing and spend time analysing what can go wrong and how the software will behave in those situations.

Then, we plan how we need to respond in those scenarios so that we are able to recover as quickly as possible within our recovery objectives. All VCDM software has a business continuity plan that is regularly updated, reviewed, and tested.

These plans typically include backup and recovery of customer data, failure of critical software dependencies and hardware or cloud platform failures.

Illustration image: Part of the business continuity plan for a Visma product

Part of the business continuity plan for a Visma product.

If the software doesn’t work as expected and it has a significant impact on our customers, we handle that as an operational incident. Our target is to resolve incidents as quickly as possible, and in less than 90 minutes.

During the process, we keep our customers informed on status.visma.com. When everything is back to normal, we take the time to analyze what happened, learn, and make improvements to reduce the chance and/or impact of something similar happening again.

So far, we have handled 57 incidents with customer impact in 2020, with a mean time to repair of 136 minutes.

Illustration image: Number of incidents per month
Number of incidents per month.

Performance

All VCDM teams set and maintain internal performance targets to ensure that the software you use performs according to your needs. This includes things like response times, throughput, and capacity.

Illustration image: Capacity planning for a Visma product

Capacity planning for a Visma product: Part of a larger performance management plan that details our targets and expectations for the software.

We regularly review our performance testing and performance monitoring efforts to make sure that we are able to meet these targets. If we see big performance deviations, we treat it as an operational incident which means we bring all hands on deck to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

Illustration image: Response time. Part of continuous application performance monitoring for a Visma product.
Part of continuous application performance monitoring for a Visma product.

Security

To make sure our software is secure, we educate both our technical and non-technical staff through mandatory training and regular internal communications. Developers regularly use application security training software to become even better at avoiding, identifying, and mitigating common security vulnerabilities.

Illustration image: Secure Code Warrior.

Our development teams are continuously sharpening their application security skills using Secure Code Warrior.

All VCDM teams have a Security Engineer who is responsible for making sure our security program is implemented and for distributing security knowledge to the rest of the team.

The security of VCDM software is regularly peer-reviewed (at least yearly). These assessments include things such as: analysing and minimising the attack surface, strategies to protect against common vulnerabilities, and securely handling keys and credentials. It also includes encryption at rest and in traffic, network security, identifying and mitigating privacy risks and more.

Illustration image: Part of an attack surface analysis for a Visma product

Part of an attack surface analysis for a Visma product.

We also use security tools to regularly and automatically scan the code we write, any third party components we use, and our production environments, for potential security vulnerabilities.

An internal security team also regularly performs manual penetration testing (at least yearly). All of the above is mandatory for all VCDM software.

Illustration image: Black Duck Binary Analysis

Black Duck Binary Analysis is reporting a new vulnerability in a third party component. The component has since been updated.

Additionally, for some of our software, we give external security researchers permission to attempt to find vulnerabilities in our software. If they find potential vulnerabilities, we award them recognition and a monetary reward.

Since January 2019, Visma has paid out more than $200,000 in bug bounties to make our software more secure.

Ioana Piroska speaks at Visma SecCon 2020 about Visma's Bug Bounty program

Ioana Piroska speaks at Visma SecCon 2020 about Visma’s Bug Bounty program.

Whenever a potential security vulnerability is identified, we have processes in place to make sure they are investigated and mitigated quickly.

Part of the Visma Maturity Indexes
Part of the Visma Maturity Indexes – an internal tool that helps us meet our targets, like addressing findings from our security tools quickly.

Privileged Access

To ensure the security and privacy of customer data, all VCDM software is developed and operated following the least privilege principle.

This means that we don’t access customer data unless it is absolutely necessary and that any necessary access is limited both in time (minutes or hours) and in scope. The time of access is logged together with the reason why it was accessed.

Employees do not have privileged access by default and must request it on a time limited basis. This means we minimize risk and we know who accessed what when for what reason.
Employees do not have privileged access by default and must request it on a time limited basis. This means we minimise risk and we know who accessed what when for what reason.

ISO 27001

Our way of working, VCDM, including the processes we use to design, develop, deliver and operate VCDM software is ISO 27001-certified.

This means that an external auditor has verified that we have security controls embedded in our processes that help make our software more secure. Individual Visma products may also have additional certifications.

Transparency

In our experience, transparency builds trust. We often talk publicly about the Visma way of working at meetups, conferences and other events. We share knowledge and experiences with other companies.

We will also sit down with potential and existing customers to not only explain how we work, but also show internal data and documentation so that you can be confident in the service we provide.

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